'The Voice' recap: First live show
Finally, the competition truly begins as Team Christina and her "singers from every genre" face off against Team Blake's "unique sounding vocalists." (We'll see Team Adam and Team Cee-Lo next week.)
It's been weeks since they filmed those battles and a few things have changed: Adam has less hair, Cee-Lo has more (thanks to a wig), Christina dropped the ridiculous hat and covered up her cleavage and Blake...looks like Blake.
Christina "could not be more thrilled about what's going to happen tonight," while Blake thinks "it's gonna be tough. America is gonna know what it was like for us going through those battle rounds, it's hard to make a decision."
First up: Jermaine Paul, the Alicia Keys background singer, who's doing Bon Jovi's "Livin On a Prayer." Apparently it's because he feels like he's livin' on a prayer by trying to be a solo act. Blake says Jermaine is one of the most passionate singers he's ever heard, and he deserves the opportunity because he's supporting four kids.
During the performance, Jermaine tries to interact with the crowd a lot. It's one of those performances that's more emotional than impressive. Christina is impressed that he swooped across the stage. She didn't see the connection with the song choice but he milked every opportunity with it that he could. Blake reminds Jermaine that his dream of leaving background singing behind is coming true and people love him. He's going to check iTunes and expects to see "Livin' On a Prayer" in the top 10.
Carson checks in with social media correspondent Christina Milian who's chatting with Jermaine backstage and giving us another reminder that he's supporting his family (what that really has to do with a singing competition, I'm not sure). Christina asks who he's excited to see perform tonight and Jermaine basically says, "Everyone!" That's "The Voice" for you.
Over to Team Christina and opera singer Chris Mann. Christina thinks Chris' voice is magical so she chooses "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Chris says all he can think about when he sings this song is his mom (smart move opera boy: go for the mom vote).
His vocals are predictably overwrought and give me flashbacks to Clay Aiken on "American Idol" season two. I'll just say Chris is not my style and leave it at that. Cee-Lo thought it was a "wonderful performance." He came in planning to be critical but he can't find anything wrong with what Chris did. Adam says it was "great" and appreciated that he used a song that was unpredictable. Christina thought it was "so beautiful and so heartfelt. The song's been done so many times but you completely made it your own." She thanks him for making her a proud coach.
Back to Blake's team and 17-year-old Texas farm girl RaeLynn. Her video package plays up the small town girl background, and Blake assigns her Maroon 5's "Wake Up Call." (Mostly so Blake can make more jokes about his man crush on Adam Levine.)
RaeLynn gets a full band and throws a lot of attitude into her performance. She overdoes it a little, but considering the amount of teenagers who go on "American Idol" and wind up looking like deer in headlights her confidence is a welcome surprise. She tops it off by hugging Adam and calling him "so beautiful" before the coaches weigh in.
Christina calls her "a sassy little thing and really cute up there. Are you allowed to grind your hips at that age?" Then she finds an excuse to bring up the Blake/Adam bromance. Adam says RaeLynn "broke my heart twice. When you didn't pick me and then when you did our song and did so darn good." Blake says RaeLynn represents the new generation of country music. He says at the Academy of Country Music Awards she was all anyone wanted to talk to him about, she's already got Nashville excited.
Next up for Christina is hip hop artist Moses Stone. He's performing a mash-up of Kanye West's "Stonger" and "Power." Christina believes the combo will really allow him to "put his own style" on this. She advises him to just "kill it on stage" in a way the others can't.
Moses starts and there are acrobats, lots of them, circling all around him. He's still likable but he kind of gets lost and can't really put his own spin on Kanye. Cee-Lo thinks the "Kanye West melody was a nice touch" and believes Moses is a natural on stage. Adam says there's no doubt Moses can entertain people but he thought when Moses sang "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" it was more impressive and Moses has more potential as a singer than a rapper. But Adam seems to immediately regret offering honest, insightful criticism, and says no one should listen to what he says.
Blake thinks Christina is already making a difference for Moses and he hears an improvement in the vocals. He still does his aw-shucks "I don't know much about rapping" country routine, but believes that Moses is already a better singer. Christina loved the whole thing. She points out that everyone on the radio in his genre is auto-tuned. Moses is an all-in-one, he comes in with an arrangement, choreography, has great vocals and she loves the way he raps.
Blake's got street performer Naia Kete on deck. She admits nerves got the better of her in the battle rounds. She'll perform "Turning Tables" by Adele. Reggae is rooted in who she is, and Naia wants to revamp the song accordingly, but Blake prefers her to stick closer to the original track.
Adele is already massively overexposed on singing competitions, and it doesn't really help that her songs are on the radio every other minute. Naia's vocals are weak and she keeps getting swallowed by the song. Christina looks pretty apathetic but nevertheless declares it "cool." She would've liked a reggae choice if that's really Naia's thing. Blake defends his choice by saying Naia needed to prove she's more than just reggae and she can do other things. He thinks she did that, and her "tender moments are so special."
Christina's next contender is coffee shop singer Lindsey Pavao on "Somebody That I Used to Know" by Goyte and Kimbra. The Kristen Stewart-esque singer gets backup dancers in creepy masks, like something out of Christina's "Burlesque" days crossed with "Eyes Wide Shut." The song is a good match for her voice and her performance is appropriately dramatic. It's better than anything I've ever seen Katy Perry do, for whatever that's worth.
Adam says the dudes in the clown suits freaked him out a little bit. The song is one of his favorites from the past few years, but he missed power in the chorus. Christina says Lindsey came up with the arrangement. She loves that Lindsey brings her own unique style and wants to buy her album right now.
Blake follows with rocker Jordis Unga. Jordis feels she has a lot to prove after battles and is going to perform Heart's "Alone." Blake says she always has a little panic in the back of her head, but Jordis predicts the song will be her redemption.
She's solid but this is the kind of song that offers a chance at total domination. I don't think she gets there. Cee-Lo enjoyed the staging and thought it was a great performance. The high notes signified her strength. Blake says the performance was "the opposite of playing it safe. She took the hardest parts of that song and performed it, it's amazing."
Christina's R&B singing hotel clerk Sera Hill is next. She's got Drake's "Find Your Love" and Christina advises her to sing it "hard, less pretty, more Mary J. Blige swag." Christina is really making sure her artists are surrounded on stage, and Sera starts the song sitting in the middle of a group of shirtless guys. She's confident and respectable, but no one is really blowing it away tonight.
Blake says he was waiting for Christina to start stuffing singles in some of the dancers' pants. He can't get past the male strippers on stage but acknowledges Sera did great. Christina says Sera looks gorgeous, "like a diva in training. At this stage in the game you have to really bring it as a performer and you looked like you owned it up there."
Blake has power-singer Erin Willett (whose father passed away from cancer during the battle rounds). She's singing Stevie Wonder's "Living For the City" and aspires to a "Grammy performance." Blake says she overthinks things and needs to believes she's good. Her staging is very Broadway with dancers doing some background acting at restaurant tables. She's one of the least comfortable on stage so far, but stage presence hasn't been a problem tonight.
Cee-Lo says considering the circumstances Erin is performing under to be as strong as she is should be commended. Blake says, "I don't care what anyone says, that was the best technically and passionately vocal performance of the night. That's a fact." So...there?
Next up is Christina's 17-year-old pop rocker Ashley de la Rosa who is assigned "Right Through You" by Alanis Morissette. Ashley says her two passions in life are singing and charity. Christina says she relates to her ability to balance a lot at a young age.
This turns out to be Christina's most spare staging: Just Ashley and two guys with guitars. And it works. Ashley owns the stage better than any of Christina's other performers tonight.
Adam says Ashley is the biggest surprise of the night, the most improved. Tonight she was a woman and she did everything perfectly. Christina thanks Adam for saying that. She compliments Ashley on dealing with the "VMA type" staging and says she really pulled it off. Adam is shocked Christina agreed with him.
It's finally time to check in with Christina Milian again backstage who is chatting with Jordis. Christina asks Jordis what made her so emotional during her performance and Jordis says her family. So glad we took that moment.
Blake's final performer is Charlotte Sometimes who at one point was worried she'd never sing again due to an illness. She's performing Paramore's "Misery Business." Blake thinks she has the potential to win, while Charlotte wants to soften the song so it's more haunting than sassy.
Turns out Charlotte's idea of haunting starts out very Lana Del Ray, but she segues into power singing and makes the best impression she has to date. Like the rest of the night's performances it's very professional but with an appropriately theatrical quality.
Adam thinks it was very unique but if he's gonna be hyper critical there was some flatness. Christina disagrees with Adam and says she was very surprised. It was dramatic, quiet where it needed to be quiet, big where it needed to be big. Both powerful and subtle. Blake thought it was a great idea and gives Charlotte credit again for the arrangement. He thinks she's a true artist and has a vision for what she wants to do musically. He didn't hear the pitch problems at all, making it two against one among the coaches.
The night's final artist is the "passionate 42-year-old artist from Chicago" Jesse Campbell. (He's the one who was left homeless with his daughter after his wife left.) He'll perform Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" (because that's a thoroughly unexpected choice).
The show is clearly eager to create a moment out of this performance and this is where "The Voice" will decide what kind of show it is (or viewers will decide for it). Is it a feel good competition about dreams coming true? Or a search for a relevant hitmaker? Because what Jesse does couldn't be more disconnected from anything on pop radio.
That doesn't matter much because the judges predictably flip out. Cee-Lo says Jesse's voice is "almost as beautiful as my hair." He's biased to his team but he thinks Jesse could be the one. Adam thinks Jesse is the dude to beat. Christina thought Jesse was "wonderful" and "fantastic" and can sing both the alphabet and the phone book.
Whatever he sings, I doubt I'd buy it.
Now that everyone's had their turn, Carson reminds viewers to vote by phone, vote online, vote by downloading songs on iTunes, just vote! Tomorrow night two artists from Team Christina and two from Team Blake will be sent packing.
I think Blake will lose Jermaine and Naia, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Jordis or Erin go either. Christina could be saying goodbye to Chris and Sera, with Lindsey and Moses probably in the danger zone as well.
I'd give Team Blake's best of the night to Charlotte and Team Christina's to Ashley, but -- unless sentiment propels Jesse to go the distance -- I'm not sure we've seen the winner perform live yet.
Who do you think was the best of the night? Who deserves to go home? And who has the better fashion sense -- Cee-Lo or Christina?